Hong Kong 3
Spending time in the big city
This is my third major trip to Hong Kong (see
my first trip to Hong Kong
the second trip
) and there is
no shortage of things left to see. I plan on returning to Hong
Kong in a few months so I specifically tried to avoid a few highlights
(the Peak, Tai O) and much of my time was spent with "the girls"
shopping so I tried to find new details in things I have seen before.
Hong Kong is an amazing mix of new and
residential buildings stand next to new commercial towers. Wooden
Trolleys share street space with European double deck buses and no end
of high end cars. For a photographer, there means no end of
but in some ways that choice leads to more challenge, not less.
First for me is the buildings.
is a forest of towers, some tiny, some massive. The condition of
the exterior varies building to building.
I have alwasys been a market nut. Markets can be found all over
Hong Kong - some specialized, some general.
Produce markets are by far the most common, but they are far from
equal. Markets tend to reflect their neighborhoods and if you are
watching products (what are they selling) and the prices you can
sometimes tease out more detail about the neighborhood you are standing
Food vendors are the second most common type of market. It used
to be that much of Hong Kong's food was sold out of mobile stands
(Hawking) but much of that culture is now gone as regulatons have
forced food vendors into real estate with proper plumbing and
The food itself is something to see being made. While fish balls
are a common item, there is a quality/price hierarchy and the best fish
ball stands have long line ups while a stand a few doors down has a
hard time attracting customers.
This time of the year is known for "hairy crab" or more properly
Chinese Mitten Crab. This freshwater/salt water crab has a fall
season and stalls are filled with them. Crabs are sold by weight
and the price per mass increases with the size of the crab.
We picked up a bag full of crabs (2 good sized
per person + a half dozen extra for hungry people) and had a crab
night. These aren't easy animals to eat - lots of small spaces
where meat hides. The results of dinner is a big mess of shells.
This trip we took another wander over to the
fruit market. The
Fruit market is an early morning afair and I've never been up early
enough to see it actually go. There are a few vendors open at
10am when we wandered through, and we were quite surprised to find
durrian (generally out of season by now) and figs (not really a local
The Bird Market Revisited
The bird market is a combination of market and park -
a place to buy birds and supplies but also a place to go for a stroll
with your bird. The bird market is only a few blocks from Helen's
grandparents house so it's pretty easy to walk by and take some
photos. It's busy every day, but Saturday brings more birds and
their keepers. My favorite part is when owners bring their cages
to be cleaned. They put the bird in a "bird bath" cage for the
bird to clean itself while the owner scrubs the cage. Nice use of
There are a number of birds specialized stores here selling all sorts
of items. The inventory of birds definitely moves and it's not
uncommon to see a cage full of birds that have just fledged.
The Gold Fish Market Revisited
closer to Helen's Grandparents is the
Market. This market is a high volume area - thousands of fish are
sold every night. Fish are bagged for sale and displayed on mass.
This market is crowded and you don't get to really study the fish
unless you push up to wall and really inspect them. I suspect
Costco has a rule where they won't sell anything smaller than five
dollars - they just make the package larger until it crosses the
threashold. I suspect the same thing happens in this market -
cheap fish are bundled into larger and more crowded bags.
Hiking the Dragon's Back
Hiking is exactly what you think of when you think of Hong Kong, but
there is actually a lot of hiking available. On Hong Kong Island
there is a trail from the peak down to Shek O (a nice beach) that is
about 80km long. On the plus side, it's quite well signed and
many sections of it are accessible by bus. With a minimum amount
of prodding (there is good fish after the hiking) we decided to go for
The first hour or so of the hike is in new
forest. The trails are wide and well maintained and everything is
drying. You get little glimpses of vistas, but you
are mostly closed in (and thankfully) away from the sun.
Eventually you come to a fork in the trail and start hiking up.
Very quickly you find yourself out of the woods in hiking along the
ridge known as the "Dragon's Back". It wasn't crowded, but we did
see other hiking partys come through. Minor peaks have rest
benches (it does get warm out) and the major peaks have signs pointing
out landmarks. It's a nice break from the massive city you just
Macau is the second closest "country" to Hong Kong after China.
Like Hong Kong, it's also a "Special Administrative region" with it's
own laws, education system and border controls. It's about
a 45 minute fast ferry (hydrofoil) ride away from Hong Kong but in some
ways you are entering a different world.
Our first stop was Rua a Felicidade (happiness
from when it was a red light district). Places like this in Hong
Kong (2 story old buildings) have generally been bulldozed, but the
development pressure isn't as intense in Macau.
Take a few steps off the polished street and you enter a maze of
smaller streets where the facades are many years from being
proud. Real people live here and walking down the alley you can
often hear the sound of Mahjong tiles being "washed" as a new hand is
Lunch was similar to what you would have in
(fresh seafood and rice) there were a few Portuguese influences.
Almond cookies are popular (with the tourists) and most shops will let
you eat mis formed cookies as sample for buying the real
thing. Apparently the gold star local food is the Macau egg
tart. The Hong Kong variety has a pastry crust that is more like
pie or a butter tart. The Macau version is more like a croissant
and the filling is browned from the cooking. Both are excellent.
If you only do one thing if you visit Macau, you go to the
Casino's. If you do two things, you also visit the Largo do
Senado. This "traditional" Portuguese street is lined with
heritage buildings and winds it way up to Såo Paulo.
The hard part to get over is that those buildings are filled with
retail (like starbucks) that is also there for the tourists.
When we got to the top, I got a nice summary
situation - a tiny temple with the ruined church behind it and
one of the larger casinos (Lisboa) further on. It's a nice
timeline of the SAR.
Walk back down the road and you notice this place gets busier and
busier as the day ages.
South of the main tourist drag is the A-Ma
complex. This temple was built to pay respect to the spirit
of a girl who saved/saves sailors at sea. Apparently this is the
oldest place of worship in Macau and due to a translation error, it's
what Macau was named after.
There are common elements here to what you expect to see in other temples in Southern China
The spiral incense burns for up to a month at a time and each coil is
generally left by a different visitor to the temple. New to me
was a money dish (filled with water) that accepts more "liquid"
We climbed up toward one of the higher
temples and I
noticed this thicket of bamboo growing. Every stem had words
written on it. No idea if that was the intention of planting it,
but it was a nice record of visitors.
Cheung Chau Island
Hong Kong has a number of "outlying" island.
Most are just rocks sticking out of the sea, some are single purpose
locations (for prisons and drug treatment centers) and a few are
islands with communities living on them. They generally have
restaurants serving fresh seafood, a nice beach or two and some good
hiking trails to see the place. This trip we decided to visit
Cheung Chau Island.
The market on Cheung Chau is mostly targeting the
seafood industry. Not counting the restaurants lining the water
front, lots of dried fish is available in several forms. Cheung
Chau is know for it's "bun festival" in late April/early May and you
can buy the buns year round in some of the shops. Some have lotus
paste, others red bean - I'm not sure what "flavor" is used for the
We went for a little walk to take in some of the
sights of the island. It was a really warm day so we didn't
got too far. One stop was the Kwum Yam Wan temple - a small
temple with view of the beach. This temple obviously has strong
supports because it is kept clean and has high quality
We continued our walk around until we found a lookout
to sit and watch the bay. Kite surfers were out riding across the
harbour and rental kayaks were doing there best to fight their way
against the wind. It was a wonderful day to sit and watch the
world go by.
Hong Kong Wetlands Park
Back on a ferry and 45 minutes later you are back in central!
On my first visit to Hong Kong I visited the Mai Po Marshes
northern most extent of Hong Kong. It's difficult to visit that
park because it's substantially outside of the security perimeter of
Hong Kong and unless you visit on a special day, you aren't allowed
beyond the security perimeter. (It's funny how often "security"
makes for good parks).
Like Mai Po, there is a float section with a view of the mud flats
around the mangroves. On the mud you can see a circus of
mud skippers going about their daily lives. These things must
taste really bad because if we had fish like this in Canada, they would
be eaten in about 10 seconds.
There are a number of bird blinds looking
of water. This are little shelters that make humans not so
conspicuous while watching wildlife. There are generally boards
over the front of it and you get to look through the missing boards at
the wildlife. Because its dark in the shelter, it's supposed to
be hard for the wildlife to see you. That said, birds aren't
idiots and they certainly can hear you in this big box. These
shelters are nice - lots of bird guides and some even had spotting
scopes set up. I was quite happy to see school groups coming
through (and teachers doing there best to keep things in control.
We even saw one high end photographer in taking photos. The birds
weren't close, but they are pretty big and nice to see.
By now we are nearing the end of our trip and it's time to think about
packing up and getting back on a plane. Thanks again to Helen and
her family for hosting and tour guiding. Much appreciated!
Tags: Hong Kong(54), market(25), Macau(19), bird(12), place of worship(10), fish(8)
People: Helen(2), Jennie(1), Theresa(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > Hong Kong 3
From: John Harvey Photo > Hong Kong 3
Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 01:36:03 Edit
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